How deep do chemical peels penetrate?

Chemical peels can be performed at different levels of the skin.  The level of penetration determines the results as well as the healing time and potential side effects.  Superficial peels (glycolic acid, salicylic acid, low-strength TCA, and Jessner’s solution) penetrate the epidermis (uppermost layer of the skin).  Intermediate depth peels (medium-strength TCA) penetrate the papillary dermis or upper reticular dermis (the second layer of the skin).  Deep chemical peels (high-strength TCA and Phenol) penetrate the mid-to-deep reticular dermis but have largely been replaced by laser resurfacing.

Do I need to do anything before I receive a chemical peel?

It is recommended that most patients have a pre-treatment regimen.  This allows for the best peel and minimizes the risk of side effects, particularly unwanted pigmentary changes.  Sunscreen is critical and an SPF of at least 30 is recommended.  Retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, and hydroquinone, may be suggested by the physician.

Can I have a chemical peel if I have dark skin?

Because chemical peels affect skin pigment, darker skin types should only receive superficial peels.

What are the potential side effects of chemical peels?

While most patients do well with chemical peeling, the following side effects can occur.

Most people experience redness, skin tightness, and peeling that typically resolves within one week.  It is uncommon for people to have uneven results, delayed healing or infection.